I’m sorry.

There, let’s just get that out in the beginning.  Some of you will not like me when I am finished with this post.  I just have to be OK with that.

This is the Free Train, this stop is YOURS…..time to get OFF.  All of you.

Over the weekend, I went to the iHeartfaces Dream Big weekend in Dallas and I learned a TON!  But, I had to take a long, hard look at myself and my business and I had to be honest with myself.  What I saw made me really really sad, mostly at myself.  And I had some hard decisions to make, one of those being whether or not I would even continue in photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it!  It’s a stress reliever for me, and it’s something I actually have talent in.  But, it’s not making me money.  Now, how in the world, with my prices is THAT possible?

Let me show you……

I cannot tell you the times I’ve heard “oh, I can’t afford you.” Or “Your prices are just out of our price range.”

And me…….being me…..I cave and either do them at such a discount that I make ZERO money, OR, as is the case a lot, I do them {gulp} FREE.

OR, and this happens a lot too……I VOLUNTEER in the beginning….and then the project becomes WAY more than I ever EVER anticipated, lasts way longer than I ever thought, and here I am stuck doing all of this work for FREE.  Again.  And it IS work!  It’s time away from my family, time away from my actual DAY JOB that does pay me, and ends up making me upset with people.  My body is wracked with stress and I’m taking 10 different vitamins a day to keep from strangling people.

Here I am, being brutally honest with you.  I am standing here virtually naked in front of you with an honest heart.

I am angry.

I was sad at first, and then I really took a look at what it really was, and it’s people taking advantage of me.  My friends (or those I thought were my friends….let me tell you, true FRIENDS do not do this) and some of my family and some of them just expect me to do this because I know them, I’ve met them, I’m related to them, I go to church with them, etc.

These same people also know just how hard Mike and I work.  They know that my husband was laid off last year, he is making LESS money this year, and we are struggling to keep our head above water.  They know I work a 10 hour day, 5 days a week, and I have a family to maintain, and none of this includes my 2nd job:  photography.  Some weeks, it is really hard.  My life is not RainbowsandUnicornsLand.  I am making myself physically ill trying to keep up with everything.

90% of what I do is FREE work.

Shocking huh?

I was shocked when it was broken down into such a black and white percentage.  There are things I never mind doing, one of those being Littlest Heroes Project.  I will always ALWAYS do those.  Teaching Sunday school….I love it, and God called me to do it, so that stays.  But, everything else?  I’m sorry, this is your stop…….time to get OFF the FREE TRAIN.

My kids like to be clothed and fed and I enjoy ALL of my bills being paid.  Do not take advantage of a KIND HEART!  Shame on you.  At the VERY VERY LEAST:  SAY THANK YOU!

So, this is my new take on those who “can’t afford me”.

I know what Mike and I can and CANNOT afford.  I’d love a new Lexus, but I cannot go onto a Lexus car lot and tell them how I LOVE LOVE LOVE their cars, they are the best cars ANYWHERE, and I’d LOVE to have one!  “Ohhh….but your prices are too high, we just can’t afford that, would you just give me one for free?” And I LOVE me some Red Lobster!  LOVE it!  I cannot go into Red Lobster, tell them I LOVE their shrimp, but can’t afford it……Can I eat for free?

No, I knew I could afford a USED car, so I went to the USED car lot to buy a USED car….one that was in our budget.  I don’t go to Red Lobster, I go to McYucks (McDonalds for those that don’t know my complete aversion to McYucks).  I go to what I can afford.  If you cannot afford CUSTOM PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY, then do what you CAN afford.  If it’s WalMart, no shame in that.  I did WalMart most of my life, would still be doing it if I wasn’t a photographer myself.  *I* could not afford my work.  DO what you can AFFORD.  No shame in that.

Please consider that we are a struggling family in this economy.  Please consider my family cannot afford what A LOT of other people can afford.  We do without a lot of stuff.  I am currently LITERALLY saving pennies/nickels/and dimes to afford the ONE thing my boys want for Christmas:  an XBox 360.  And instead of begging others to pay for it, or expecting people to give it to me because we are a struggling family, I am working my b u t t off to buy it for them.  That’s what I do:  I work for things.  I don’t expect hand outs.  I am working odd jobs to pay for one.

So, please, when you need my services, please PLEASE expect to PAY for it.  My sitting fee is for EVERYONE.  I may have a discount for friends and family, but I cannot afford to give away my work.  Don’t expect me to do it.

And when I do something KIND for you, please say THANK YOU.  Don’t expect it all the time.  And don’t take advantage of me.

I work hard.  I work VERY hard.

So, now, at the end of this rant, if you no longer want to be my “friend”, that’s alright.  If you no longer want to go to church with me, or be my family, I don’t know what to tell you.

Be kind anyway.